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Raiders hope rebuild is a rapid one

Elmwood's Tessa Olson is one of seven returning letter winners looking for a better season in 2013.

ELMWOOD – From one standpoint, the graduation losses the Elmwood High School volleyball team took from last season should be an early setback for the 2013 Raider squad

Gone are nearly all of the team’s statistical leaders from last season, including team leader in kills Ally Pax, who was All Dunn-St. Croix Conference, team leader in assists Jessica Olson, team leader in blocks, aces and digs McKayla Brunner (both of whom were honorable mention All D-SC) along with middle hitter Janessa VandenBerg.

But from an opposite standpoint, the Raiders also return seven letter winners who were on the varsity roster last season and long-time head coach Bev Glaus feels the group can be a competitive one just as soon as they put in their time together in their first few matches.

“They just need game experience,” Glaus said. “There’s a lot of potential but it needs to be tempered by playing a varsity match together as one unit. “

The Raiders quick rebuilding plan starts with junior letter winner Brandy Peterson. She was a back-up to Olson last season and will move into the starting setter’s role for this fall.

“We plan to build around her because she does have a good amount of experience,” Glaus said. “I believe she will fill the setter’s role very well full time. Having her back puts us in a nice situation because we want to put in the other starters in specialized positions.”

Glaus believes the Raiders will greatly benefit from the return of two players who were away from much of last season’s 4-20 squad (0-9 in the Dunn-St. Croix)  with injuries which hurt the team’s depth. They are senior Tessa Olson and junior Kaitlyn Lee.

“Kaitlyn is an all-around player who gives us a lot of flexibility when it comes to rotations and line-ups,” Glaus said. “With Tessa coming back, we have some depth when it comes to hitters.  In fact, this is a group where I believe the number of passers and hitters we have are in good balance. “

Besides Olson, EHS will also have up front returning letter winners such as juniors Jennifer and Justine Weix along with senior Alysha Hoyt and a newcomer, junior Amber Schoeder, up from the JV squad.

Holding down spots in the backrow besides Peterson will be senior letter winner Danielle Martineau and sophomore Shelby Hall, who, as a freshman, led the team last season in serving percentage at 90.4 percent with 12 aces. Both she and Jennifer Weix and Olson were the team’s Most Improved Players in 2012.

Improved depth could be Elmwood’s secret weapon for this season.

“Unlike seasons past where we struggled with numbers these players didn’t have to play varsity immediately regardless of where they were at,” Glaus said. “Our team numbers have been up the past few seasons and that’s allowed to develop those players who needed it and now they’re ready step up. And not only that, but we have a very good group of sophomores and freshmen who we can both develop and also have push for playing time as well which will make us even more competitive.”

Glaus feels this team can be competitive in a D-SC she thinks will be topped off by Boyceville, Mondovi and Colfax if they can get off to a good start playing a good number of non-conference matches, the bulk of which are at home.

“This is an enthusiastic group,” Glaus said. “They played in a summer league and they do a lot together and they’re good friends. Individually they still need to get better at the positions they will play but once their skills improve the whole team will improve.”

Elmwood’s season begins this afternoon with a quadrangular meet at home involving Clear Lake, Pepin and Gilmanton. The also have early home matches against Alma, Independence and Eau Claire Immanuel Lutheran.